FEAR OF HEIGHTS

This is quite a common phobia and it can cause very great inconvenience and even danger to health. For instance, some people will actually avoid a medical appointment if the clinic is on an upper floor of a hospital building. Guy’s Hospital in London where I used to work includes one building which is thirty floors in height! Other people might have to live in substandard accommodation because the better flats available are in a tower block. Some people might turn down a good job if it involves working in or visiting a high building.

Travel is another factor, if the road or railway crosses a high bridge or is adjacent to a steep cliff. In the Southwest we have the Tamar Bridge, the Avon Bridge, and the Severn Bridge. These can be all the more intimidating because you can see them from a long way off. Some people may for instance commute from Plymouth to Saltash via the Torpoint Ferry rather than using the Saltash Bridge. This requires a detour of many miles, wasting huge amounts of time and petrol.

Fear of heights also cuts down on recreational activities. Not everyone fancies bungie jumping, but there are many tourist attractions which involve heights, such as ski lifts, mountains, towers, castles, cliffs, and the London Eye.

I discuss HERE the background to how phobias generally develop. Fear of heights may result from a traumatic experience in childhood such as falling from a tree while playing. But in many cases the client cannot clearly remember how the phobia started. A special factor in fear of heights is that when looking over the edge, the person often gets a powerful thought of how easy it would be to jump off. In fact this never actually happens unless the person is suicidal and has gone up there specifically for that reason. However such random thoughts can seem very real when you are in the grip of extreme terror.

You can read more HERE about how I help my clients to overcome phobias.

I should mention here that vertigo is an entirely different thing to fear of heights. Vertigo is defined as “the sensation of moving or of surrounding objects moving when they are not. Often it feels like a spinning or swaying movement. This may be associated with nausea, vomiting, sweating, or difficulties walking.” Vertigo is caused by a malfunction of the balance mechanism in the inner ears. This is normally due to a physical illness which will require medical treatment. Of course a person who has vertigo will also probably have a fear of heights but in their case the fear is justified as they are more at risk of falling.